Marsh advances to quarterfinals at US Mid-Amateur

The Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Kevin Marsh won two matches, including a second-round win over defending champion Nathan Smith, on Tuesday to advance to the quarterfinal round at the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.

The event was held at the par-71, 7,173-yard Country Club of Birmingham's West Course.

Marsh, the 2005 U.S. Mid-Amateur titlist, defeated Smith, a four-time winner of this championship, 2 and 1. In the third round, he held off Keith Unikel 1 up.

''I told myself at lunch to not have a letdown,'' said Marsh about his morning win over Smith, a member of last month's winning USA Walker Cup Team. ''I was proud of myself for beating Nathan. It wouldn't have meant as much if I was not able to back it up.''

Marsh had a 3-up lead after 10 holes, but Unikel reeled off three consecutive birdies to square the third-round match. A pair of pars helped Marsh win Nos. 14 and 15. He two-putted from the upper left fringe on the par-4 14th and made a 6-footer on the following hole.

After a bogey on No. 16 cut his lead in half, Marsh later found himself in the left fairway bunker on the 434-yard, par-4 18th. The championship's fourth seed calmly made a 9-iron to within 9 feet to set up the match-clinching par.

''Pars are really good around here, especially the last five or six holes,'' said Marsh, who has advanced to the U.S. Mid-Amateur quarterfinals for a fourth time. ''I am not swinging real confidently. It's all about figuring out a way and taking it one hole at a time.''

The U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship continues with the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds on Wednesday. The championship is scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Thursday.

The U.S. Mid-Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.